mandag den 21. juni 2010

World Cup 2010 Best of Round 2: First and second teams

Another round of fixtures gone and another "best of" team from me.

This time much harder selections to make with many more eye catching performances than in the opening games.

Round 1:

1st team

2nd team

Round 2:

First team:

Gk: Diego Benaglio - Switzerland

Rb: Jorge Fucile - Uruguay
Cb. Diego Lugano - Uruguay
Cb: Lucio - Brazil
Lb: Carlos Salcido - Mexico

Mf: Rafael Marquez - Mexico
Mf: Raul Meirelles - Portugal
Mf: Cristian Riveros - Paraguay

Rw: Dennis Rommedahl - Denmark
Fw: Diego Forlan - Uruguay
Fw: Lionel Messi - Argentina


Diego Benaglio - Switzerland

It's very possible he was robbed the first time around and his performance in the first game, possibly being better as well.
But at least I'm making good on it by including him this round where I had more trouble finding (or remembering?) outstanding goalkeeper performances.

Bengalio was kept possibly even more busy by Chile than in the first game by Spain and he responded with another mistake free game where especially in one on one situations he proved to be the great wall that the small Chileans just couldn't get the ball past.

Right back:

Jorge Fucile - Uruguay

Another round where I have to cheat. This time my list of worthy left-backs completely dwarfs the right-backs so I'm putting Fucile who played excellent on the left for Uruguay against South Africa on the right where he has played before anyway.

Against South Africa this round Fucile played a very aggressive left-back role doing a great job of relentlessly going forward playing left midfield, making up numbers when his central pairing behind him Lugano and Godin, had South Africa's lone striker Mphela completely under control anyway. Then whenever it was needed and South Africa were pushing more people forward in the transition which they rely so heavily on, he would quickly be back at their side defending strong without much trouble at all.

While Uruguay doesn't quite go for the tactical fluidity of Mexico or Chile, when they're in attack mode like they were, especially early against South Africa, there is still quite a bit, and by attacking as a midfielder or left-wing and defending fullback and often central defender, as well as he did, Fucile certainly did his part to making it work.

Centre back:

Lucio - Brazil

Lucio's warrior aggression and fierce strength once again proved a very difficult matchup even for Didier Drogba and he hardly put a foot wrong in his side's impressive dismissal of the African pretenders.

We even saw him on those trademarks runs going forward spreading needed unbalance down the Eriksson rigid defensive lines.

He didn't even seem as slow as he has the last couple of years, but had a lightness almost to his movement (which I can't believe I'm saying. Maybe the opposition was just very slow?) and whenever close to the poor soul he is targeting with his marking, it's pretty much game over for the attacking player.

His partner Juan would also have been a worthy entry this round. He doesn't rely as much on athleticism anymore as Lucio still does with his power, but Juan defends extremely smart and reads the game incredibly well.

Centre back:

Diego Lugano - Uruguay

Him and his partner Godin is a good candidate for the strongest centre-back duo in the tournament so far.

Godin was probably a little better in the first game against France while this time around I thought Lugano was the best.

He completely dominated South Africa's striker Mphela and was flawless in all his actions even when stepping out or up expanding his command area.
As usual he was very aggressive and on top of all situations whether physically winning a tackle or reading the game making a timely intervention.

A flawless centre-back performance.


Carlos Salcido - Mexico

Not dissimilar to Fucile's performance for Uruguay but had more challenges and difficult conditions to overcome both when defending and going forward, yet as mostly a wing-back managed to do both very well, even causing a very good defender like France's Bacary Sagna problems along the way, contributing to a Mexico performance where great tactical fluidity easily beat France's not so good tactics at all and superior talent.


Raul Meirelles - Portugal

As usual he was showing range of passing in the Portugal midfield but what was more key this time around against a very organized North Korea team that had frustrated even Brazil was his runs forward, something the Brazil central midfielders rarely did (if ever), and if it had not been for those causing unrest, and generally with new partner Tiago doing more good forward passing (compared to Deco's good sideways passing) who knows if the game would have broken open the way it ultimately did, forcing a trailing North Korea to go forward and really allow the much more skilled Portuguese players to rain in one important goal after another. Very likely securing their advancement.


Cristian Riveros - Paraguay

Like rarely seen this World Cup Paraguay completely neutralized Slovakia in their 2-0 win over them this round.

A significant part of that was already done by the three very hard working forwards. Santa Cruz, Valdez and Barrios meeting the technically weak Slovakian defenders up high, forcing them to make clearances going nowhere or passing it back to their keeper, but further back dealing with what could have been Slovakia's passing savior Marek Hamsik, Cristian Riveros was commanding midfield guarding passing lanes and helping out teammates seemingly everywhere, whether it was being the backup defender or a passing option left or central when the team was in possession.

Also in possession, he wasn't bad himself at all and showed good range of passing effortlessly finding the three forwards who would then give the Slovakian defenders all kinds of trouble.

Just a great all round midfield performance which he even crowned by scoring a goal.


Rafael Marquez - Mexico

Torrado on the Mexico midfield is the more consistent performer and would have been a worthy inclusion as well but against France, Marquez had one of those very good looking games where he was just conducting play with his passing.

In that game he was found mostly just ahead of the defense where he is clearly better these days than being a liability in a four back line and especially his ability to find Dos Santos on the right created all sorts of trouble for France.

Still guilty sometimes of holding on to the ball a little bit too long risking losing it in dangerous positions but when that isn't the case his overall technical ability, exquisite passing and reading of the game is a pleasure to watch.

Right wing:

Dennis Rommedahl - Denmark

The most criticized player on the Danish national team for the last 10 years was definitely not someone I expected to ever make these teams, but in the win against Cameroon, his perhaps best ever performance in a Denmark shirt does the job.

Cameroon was pressing up high with several players. Something that could have resulted in a lot more goals for them, but with the nearest to the left Cameroon midfielder always moving central making room for Tottenham left-back Ekotto to storm forward, then often himself coming forward in support, it left acres of space the other way for Rommedahl who at 31 still has his clear strengths in the speed and stamina departments allowing him to take advantage all game long.

That's not really anything new however. Danish coach Morten Olsen's lineups (especially in the past) with classic wings has often had that effect, but where Rommedahl time and time again has failed to execute. His technique letting down what his pace had created, this time, this game, it all came together and his ball control, deliveries and finishing were nothing to complain about at all.


Lionel Messi

Pretty much a repeat performance from the first round so look for the finer points in last week's writeup.

Argentina again with two other forwards had the scenario where Messi was extremely dangerous throughout creating numerous threatening situations both for himself and for teammates.

South Korea until they fell far behind defended better than Nigeria and with Veron missing we saw less passing quality on what was an unbalanced Argentina midfield, forcing Messi to spend a little bit too much time further back, but again, it was the kind of game that for anyone else would have been extraordinary.


Diego Forlan - Uruguay

Simply in a league of his own for most of the game against South Africa.

Extremely intelligent play with all the right runs and passes plus of course the technical ability to execute to perfection.

Two goals doesn't hurt but for Uruguay Forlan is much more than that and is the one player in attacking midfield (especially when both Suarez and Cavani are in the lineup) and the final third that all the others can look to, who will make them better. The talisman of the team.

My only worry is his stamina where it seems he has to take some longish breaks sometimes but in all other periods he definitely works at high intensity.


Rabaah Sadane
- Algeria

A coach I know very little about. What his tactical philosophy or tendencies are I have no idea so I can't offer much insight, but credit to him for making England, a team usually very threatening, even against teams defending in numbers, look very toothless.

Most eye catching was that through their advantage in numbers in midfield, Algeria didn't just manage to obstruct England play with defending, but with the ball they passed and moved with it well enough using the available space and most attempts of England ball-pressure were made to look hopeless with little effect.
There were never any panic at all and that they actually ended up having the ball more (even if only slightly) than a team that was supposed to put them under great pressure speak volumes and they held on to a shockingly comfortable 0-0 draw.

Second Team:

Gk: Mark Paston - New Zealand

Lb: Fabio Coentrao - Portugal
Cb: Diego Godin - Uruguay
Cb: Tulio - Japan
Rb: Sergio Ramos - Spain

Mf: Sami Khedira - Germany
Mf: Enrique Vera - Paraguay

Rw: Elano - Brazil
Am: Roque Santa Cruz - Paraguay

Lf: David Villa - Spain

Striker: Luis Fabiano - Brazil

Coach: Gerardo Martino - Paraguay


Mark Paston - New Zealand

I don't know if he really was the second best keeper this round. Stojkovic from Serbia had to make some really good saves and Thomas Sorensen from Denmark as well. Sorensen did however, indirectly at least, contribute to what was the farcical passing in the Denmark defense, so he couldn't really be included.

Most importantly Paston just didn't make any mistakes in what was a situation where he saw plenty of crosses and shots from the outside. By flooding space deep central in their own half with a great collective effort against Italy, New Zealand was definitely counting on Paston to deal with outside efforts as well as all deliveries that entered goalkeeper territory. He did all of those things very well and New Zealand held on to a great 1-1 draw against the defending champions from Italy.


Fabio Coentrao - Portugal

In Portugal's first game we saw him defend well under what was considerable pressure from a physical Ivory Coast team that had won the midfield battle.

That alone almost won him a place on one of my teams but in the end he just missed out.

This round we really saw what he could do going forward as well and that he is a former or sometimes winger definitely makes sense.

There were signs of a very good understanding with Cristiano Ronaldo and if Ronaldo doesn't neglect his fullback but take advantage of both their talents, instead of just his own, then Portugal will have a very dangerous combination coming from the left.

Centre back:

Diego Godin - Uruguay

With his partner Lugano, he was responsible for the most dominant central defender display this round. Simple as that!

Heitinga, Juan and New Zealand hero Nielsen were other impressive centre-backs this round but all just miss out.

Centre back:

Tulio - Japan

Good looking defender with a very impressive performance against the Netherlands where he was reading the game well and winning duels against the Dutch attackers throughout.

Most impressive to me was the range he commanded. He made great interventions out left especially and as Japan later in the game pushed up playing a higher line he was comfortable even there as well.

Right back:

Sergio Ramos - Spain

I had trouble finding good right-back candidates this round and even though the Ivory Coast put a lot of effort into blocking his forward progress, I was looking at a repeat Maicon inclusion. Ramos though with his persistent attacking display against Honduras, steals the spot in the last minute.


Sami Khedira

Khedira's midfield partner Schweinsteiger had another really good game but I'm going with Khedira this time who throughout the game against Serbia showed splendid two-way play.

Even when Germany was reduced to 10 men and playing without a striker he managed to take on him coming from behind Özil, who was put on top, and make run after run forward without the ball keeping the Serbian defenders very busy and under pressure - creating space for both the passers like Schweinsteiger and Ozil to exploit as well as other runners like Müller and especially Podolski who unfortunately just couldn't find the net on the very good amount of chances Germany created while being one man down.

Overall Khedira was an everywhere man in this game for Germany with all the right movement and good solid passing whatever his position on the field.

Noteworthy midfield performances that didn't make it this round (mainly to make room for strikers where even a hattrick wasn't enough) were: various Algerian midfielders frustrating England, Yebda, Lacin and Ziani on the wing being a passing option always and showing ability with the ball.

Birsa the Slovenian number 10 played a great first half against the U.S where he hardly put a foot wrong, but then faded badly in the second half. For team USA Landon Donovan had another good game and up front in the second half Jozy Altidore was causing havoc in the Slovenian back four with his athleticism and aggression.

For Brazil, Melo had one of those good games he rarely had for Juventus all season and for the Oranje Mark Van Bommel showed signs of life with a very controlling midfield display not least featuring his impressive passing range. Personally I look forward, when like at Bayern, he can get some real wingers to pass it diagonal to, and I'm sure I'm not alone...

Finally these three (deeper) central midfielders also played very well, Carmona for Chile and for Spain Alonso and Busquets. You can question if they should both be there playing at the same time but at least they're having no trouble playing together and don't step on the eachother's toes.

Also for Spain, Xavi was being Xavi, and if Spain make it out of the group, I'm sure that sooner rather than later, that will be more than enough for a place on the team.


Enrique Vera - Paraguay

Another great performer from Paraguay's very dominant display against Slovakia.

Vera worked extremely hard in what was mostly right-central midfield but this was another everywhere man performance where as the picture above shows he was also up there applying that key high pressure which completely neutralized the Slovaks.

Good defensively by putting on pressure always and a threat going forward with fast running, supporting the front three, even earning him a goal. Very good.

Attacking midfield/Forward:

Roque Santa Cruz - Paraguay

Santa Cruz looks to have hit form just at the right time and really surprised me with this performance.

The other Paraguay forwards, the Dortmund boys, Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez also had very good games but it was Santa Cruz with the best all round performance I thought.

Especially his movement often behind the other two, just ahead of the midfielders, I didn't expect and throughout he was able to keep up the hard work putting on similar pressure on the defenders as the younger lighter guys, and then in possession he was even more of a presence in more places than they were, leading the way for his team in the final third.
In some ways similar to what Forlan is doing when playing with both of Suarez and Cavani for Uruguay.

Right wing:

Elano - Brazil

Really close between a number of players this time around.

Dos Santos from Mexico has a good case for a second inclusion after another spectacular game. To a lesser extent the same could be said of Sanchez from Chile, who if certain teammates would have just passed to him when he was open towards the end against Switzerland could have scored some goals as well.

And then there is Krasic who absolutely terrorized German left-back Badstuber but in the end I'm going with Elano who until he was carried out injured after a bad challenge was Brazil's best attacking threat of the stars behind striker Fabiano.

Good pace and dribbling. Great shooting and excellent deliveries when on the ball, and without it very hard working managing to support the midfield a lot better than his partner in crime on the other wing, Robinho.

An impressive performance, really making me regret (I did have a feeling it would happen) that I cut him late from my 200 best players in the world list. He did at least get an honorary mention...


David Villa

I did consider if him making the stupid mistake of lashing out against a Honduras defender should cost him and put one of the other good forward candidates this round ahead of him. Unlike the first round of games, there were many excellent performances this round.

Higuain might not even be up there among the very best, he had an inconsistent game I thought, but he still scored a hattrick taking advantage of his teammates great play.

Then there was Bendtner and especially Eto'o in the crazy wild attacking Denmark - Cameroon game.

Barrios, Valdez and Altidore I have already mentioned and what about Ozil for Germany continuing with quality playmaking even when reduced to 10 man and put out of position on top after Klose was gone.
Unfortunately coach Löw decided to mess with a good thing and substituted him too early, costing both of them really, a place on the team.

I should also mention Carlos Tevez who had a really good game against South Korea.

Overall though, Villa when he was good, was better than all of them. For Valencia towards the end of the season he started struggling and had games where he was looking a shadow of himself.
Then to have a game like this, looking like his usual deadly self, has to be a massive boost for Spain. Especially when their other star striker Fernando Torres is still battling back from an injury, layoff looking not at his best yet.


Luis Fabiano - Brazil

Despite what replay showed was great hands on one of his goals, an overall excellent box striker performance from Luis Fabiano who just complements the rest of the Brazil attacking players formidably.

He is an effective target for quality deliveries from Elano or Maicon on the right and central or lefthe can be the centerpiece in quick passing combinations with Kaka, Robinho or Bastos coming from behind. You couldn't ask for more and he is an absolute key to Brazil looking as dangerous as they do in the final third.


Gerardo Martino - Paraguay

Close call between a number of coaches. Tabarez - Uruguay for his tactical timing switching between attack and defense not just between games but in them and of course New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert organizing a team far behind in talent well enough to frustrate their opponents.

I'm gonna go with Paraguay coach Martino though for masterminding the complete neutralization of an opponent to an extent which you rarely see.

In a turnaround from the game against Italy where they sat deep, but from what I understand not unusual for Paraguay, he played 3 players up front with clear instructions of putting as much pressure without the ball on the Slovak defenders.

That created countless of 2 on 2 or even 2 on 3 situations for the Slovak defenders who were just nowhere nearly good enough technically to handle it, resulting in one desperate clearance or backpass to the goalkeeper after another, completely preventing the whole team from ever getting any rhythm.

With plenty of strong forwards at his disposal (especially now after Barrios has joined) it also looks like a good move playing Santa Cruz in more of a Forlan role. One I didn't think he would be capable of but against the Slovaks at least he did very well.

Everywhere in the Paraguay formation there is hard work and defensive discipline and when attacking the decisions are good and the movement quick. There is even fluidity across midfield and from the forwards.

It just looks like a very well coached team.

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